So calling someone on the phone to order a book is not exactly an intuitive process, and going over what’s in the shop on the phone is absurd. The staff is waiting on people half the time, and they don’t know what’s on the shelf. None of the local bookstores I’ve bought from in the last five years have had an up-to-date listing of available stock online. I feel for this, really, I know how hard it is to manually update a website and manage content. Yet what I mean when I say I want to order online is that I want to browse online, see recommendations and the latest book awards, etc. I get this fine by going into the shop, but I don’t have time to go to the shop as often as I read.
I read a hundred books a year more or less, and currently they’re almost all paper (both hardbacks and paperbacks). When I say hard to find, I mean out of print, by and large, or from non-mainstream publishers. The sentiment of buying in a brick and mortar store, contributing to the local economy, and having a community of readers I can talk book with is all great, but I’m past the point of just reading what I find on the shelf. Reading for me is often an in-depth exploration: I do back to back reads (for compare and contrast), vertical samples (an author’s work across decades), vintage or style binges.
The issue isn’t that the local bookstores aren’t good, it’s simply that they’re not big enough, and there’s not support for deep reading. Some really well established urban bookstore meccas have a the kind of curated collection I like, but generally a local bookstore is serving a small local community and the stock is less exotic.